Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who was once a rising star in the Republican Party and a former presidential candidate, is now facing the prospect of losing his position in the 2018 midterms. Falling poll numbers show Walker is in danger of being ousted as governor by uninspiring Democratic contender Tony Evers, and Walker is sounding the alarm to motivate his supporters, according to STL News.
A victory in the Wisconsin gubernatorial election would be a huge win for the Democrats, as it would represent one of the bigger upsets in the election. Walker has so far managed to survive every Democratic onslaught directed at him over the past eight years, leaving state Democrats frustrated with their failures to unseat him. Walker is seeking his third term as governor, having twice held onto the position despite former Democratic President Barack Obama capturing Wisconsin in both elections. Walker also survived a 2012 recall attempt by Democrats.
There are signs that Walker’s position has weakened significantly, and Democrats feel that 2018 represents their best chance to remove him as governor. Walker’s approval rating remains below 50 percent, and he is getting no bump from the sitting president, who has an even worse rating. Wisconsin’s large contingent of independent voters are polling as leaning Democratic, where Walker had carried that group in previous elections. Evers has made gains in his criticism of Walker’s record on health care, education, and infrastructure.
“Here in Wisconsin, we pay 50% more than people 3 miles away in Minnesota.”— Tony Evers (@Tony4WI) October 9, 2018
It’s time to stop playing politics with our health and get to work lowering costs for Wisconsin families. Check out our new TV ad below ⬇️. pic.twitter.com/nKjX6johDh
“I’ve seen on the faces of our kids what the devastation of Scott Walker’s cuts to public education has done,” said Evers, who is a former teacher and school administrator. Walker initially slashed the states education budget by $700 million, some of which was later restored. “I’ve seen parents and families struggling with rising health care costs and stagnant wages.”
Recent surveys have shown a persistent enthusiasm gap for Republicans, who have already suffered key defeats in two Wisconsin special legislative elections and lost a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat this year. To make matters worse, four of Walker’s former cabinet members have come out to publicly argue against his re-election, and two have even taken out political ads to that cause. Democratic turnout for Wisconsin’s contested Senate seat as well as the primary election for governor was strong.
“When he’s run before they were all in very good Republican environments, where Republicans did well in Wisconsin, they did well across the country,” said Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette. “This year is much different.”
The strength of Walker’s campaign lies in the performance of Wisconsin’s economy. Wisconsin has reflected national gains in economic growth, while unemployment levels are at record lows. “The people of this state don’t want to go backwards,” Walker said, “they want to go forwards.”
Walker supporter Ted Kieper said that he can’t understand why Walker is in a close race given the state of the economy. “I’m hoping the polls are wrong like they were in the presidential election,” he said.
Democrats have been burned by false optimism before. In the 2014 election, Democrat Tom Barrett polled as even with Walker a month before the election, only to lose by more than five points. Walker has been pushing hard to get out the vote, outspending Evers 2-to-1 on television advertising leading up to the election. “We can’t spike the football on the five-yard-line,” said Democratic strategist Patrick Guarasci. “Victory will require getting every possible Democratic voter to the polls.”